The recent Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications (CRTC) (2013c) 'Broadcasting Regulatory Policy on the Distribution of Canadian Category C national news speciality services' marks a new regulatory approach to distributing competitive news and sports programming in Canada. This policy is a response to Canadians' concerns over consumer choice due to program bundling and an inability to select news and sports programs on a stand-alone basis (CRTC, 2013c; CRTC, 2014). Based on the Commission's public notice on 'Regulatory Framework for Broadcasting Distribution Undertakings and Discretionary Programming Services', the new regulation demonstrates an effort to reduce national news and sports program regulations and to encourage greater competition in the Canadian cable market (Armstrong, 2010; CRTC, 2008; CRTC, 2013c).
The Commission preambled in 'Review of the Regulatory Framework for Broadcasting Services in Canada' that competition and packaging policies by broadcasting distribution undertakings (BDUs) would be re-examined in 2010-2013 (Dunbar & Leblanc, 2007). The CRTC (2008) distributed a public notice stating its future intent to leave packaging decisions to be negotiated between broadcasting service providers and programmers. During this time, the majority of stakeholders agreed that packaging restrictions should be reconsidered in future policy frameworks. This delay in regulatory action was, in part, due requirements to “mirror” analog and digital packaging services and thus policy changes would not occur until the majority of the market reached digital saturation in the broadcasting sector. This was predicted to occur in the early 2010s.
The CRTC (2013b, 2013c) revisited mandatory carriage and national news packaging. These two policy decisions are inter-related as they spurred the Commission to reconsider policies that pose a competitive barrier for some news channels and package options for consumers (CRTC, 2013a; Dobby, 2013; Rennie, 2013). Following this decision, the Commission did post a 'Notice of Consultation' which invited stakeholders to express their opinions on the subject (CRTC, 2013a). Furthermore, the CRTC (2014) initiated 'Let's Talk TV' in October 2013, which enabled a discussion between the regulatory body and Canadians to share their views on current regulations in broadcasting and the future of television packaging in Canada. The subsequent report of 'Let's Talk TV' outlined the concerns and satisfactions of the Canadian public. In late 2013, the CRTC (2013c) ruled that Category C national news services should be offered by all broadcasting providers in an effort to remove regulatory restrictions for new entrants, increase competition in this sector and to enhance consumer choice.
Issues and Implications
The CRTC (2013c) identified five categories that this policy addressed: the necessity of offering all marketable news services, news neighbourhoods, packaging requirements,...